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The Pulse #9

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2005
By: Shawn Hill



“Secret War Part Four”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot: See the cover? Wolverine standing over the dead (but not punctured) body of Jessica Jones? Get the homage (to Uncanny X-Men #177)? Yeah? Doesn’t happen in the book.

Comments: Oy, where to begin? This is ultimately a frustrating issue, despite it being an example of most of the things Bendis does best when it comes to the Marvel universe. Remember how this “story” started with Wolverine getting all up in Jessica’s face, as if in a clip from a different movie we’d never seen, and then we immediately jumped back in time to something else we couldn’t see very clearly, and then the rest of the story came in disjointed chunks that looked like leftovers from whatever was semi-currently happening in the actual Secret War mini-series, which also involved Jessica’s boyfriend, Luke?

Well, that prelude finally comes to pass this issue. And, guess what, with context and build-up and a semi-coherent idea of what’s been going for the past 8 months, it almost makes sense. Bendis has a true feel for these characters that he chooses. Even if they don’t always talk well (or even with anything approaching grammar), they act correctly. They do what they would do, and Bendis excels at focusing on the emotional costs of those decisions.

I see what Bendis is trying to do here. Events in Secret War are meant to be so cataclysmic, so final, so effed up that they’ve apparently ruined Nick Fury’s career. That is B-I-G big. But since we still don’t know what those are, as the “thrilling” Secret War has been not coming out for almost two years, it’s really made for some poor, disjointed and unfulfilling storytelling. Last issue was the best of the lot because it actually focused on Jessica, herself, as one person faced with her own private part of this Secret hell, making a choice that mattered.

Of course, it also put us back where we always end up with Jessica: somehow she always behaves better than everyone expects her to in the crunch. This doesn’t really speak well of her days as Jewel. I’m not quite comfortable with an empowerment message that hinges on low expectations, but there you go with Bendis. Expect the worst, because the best is rare.

Plot mechanics: A suave SHIELD agent misdirects Jessica and her reporter crew (was this comic supposed to be about the newspaper biz? What?) into a possibly deadly conflict with Wolverine, but Logan makes the right choice despite feeling (pretty reasonably, I suppose) like a victim of repeated rape. Then, because people are assholes, Danny Rand puts Jessica through the ringer when she finally achieves her goal and locates her lover.

Because it’s Bendis, he does it with words not his Iron Fist, and there’s a Night Nurse joke in there somewhere, too, and then we finally get to see Luke understand his mate better than anyone else ever does. A good ending, with a few more rueful jokes, that almost justifies the story’s major problem of not playing fair with the facts.

Sexism watch: Well, c’mon, “Night Nurse,” but otherwise Bendis realizes Misty is the voice of reason over at Heroes for Hire/Daughters of the Dragon, and if anyone is sexualized on the cover, it is Wolverine, because Mayhew takes full advantage of the new leather costume that leaves nothing to the imagination (unlike the Byrne one from the X-men cover, with shadows). Good job, then! Logan might as well be Emma!



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